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Here are summaries of some of the key events and diplomatic moments on the road to war in Iraq. This chronology is drawn from FRONTLINE's report, "Blair's War."


Sept. 12, 2001

Europe Offers Support After Sept. 11


NATO Headquarters

Immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, NATO offers the U.S. European troops to help fight the coming war in Afghanistan. "This attack shall be regarded as an action covered by Article V of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack on one or more of the allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all," declares George Robertson, NATO's secretary-general.

But the Bush administration is cautious, not wanting to relive the U.S. military's frustrating experience with NATO during the Kosovo war. Two weeks after NATO's offer, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz arrives at NATO with the administration's response. "If we need collective action, we'll ask for it," Wolfowitz says. "We don't anticipate that at the moment."


Jan. 29, 2002

Bush's 'Axis Of Evil' Speech Unnerves Europe


With the Taliban's defeat in Afghanistan, President Bush gives his January 2002 State of the Union address and expands the list of states who pose a threat to the U.S. to include both states supporting terrorists and those developing weapons of mass destruction. Citing North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, Bush says, "states like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world."

Europe's reaction to the speech is strong. "The French Foreign Ministry said it was a simplistic description of the situation," says Alain Frachon, a senior editor at the French newspaper Le Monde. "People were afraid of introducing this religious language in the political landscape. ... That kind of language sounds very odd for us, very bizarre, and it does not cross well the ocean."


April 5, 2002

Blair Gauges Bush's Intentions on Iraq


British Prime Minister Tony Blair travels to Crawford, Texas, where he spends the weekend at the president's ranch. Christopher Meyer, the British ambassador to the U.S at the time, says that Blair approaches the president about his plans on Iraq. According to Meyer, Blair tells the president that, while the U.S. has the military strength to go into Iraq alone, it is better to do so with the backing of partners and allies.

Blair urges the president to build a coalition of partners through the U.N., and offers to serve as a bridge between the U.S. and Europe.


June 2002

Alarm Over U.S.'s New Pre-emptive Policy


In a graduation address at West Point eight months after Sept. 11, President Bush reveals his vision for a new world order and a new national security approach. "For much of the last century, America's defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of containment and deterrence," Bush says. "Our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for pre-emptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives."

One of those alarmed by the president's comments is French President Jacques Chirac, who first met Saddam Hussein in 1974 and whose country has long had close ties with Iraq. "The wish to legitimize the unilateral and pre-emptive use of force is extremely worrying," Chirac says. "It goes against France's vision of collective world security, a vision which depends upon cooperation between states, the respect of law, and the authority of the United Nations."


Early August 2002

Powell Urges President to Go to U.N.


The British are doing everything they can to bolster U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's position on taking a multilateral approach on Iraq. In early August, Powell arranges a private dinner with Bush in the White House and tells him that having allies for a war on Iraq is important to the success of the operation. He tells Bush he should go through the U.N. on Iraq.


Aug. 26, 2002

Cheney Challenges U.N. Process


Vice President Dick Cheney publicly declares his opposition to the return of U.N. inspectors to disarm Iraq. "There is a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow 'back in his box,'" Cheney says. "What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or willful blindness."


Sept. 7, 2002

Blair Secures Bush's Commitment to U.N.


Fearing that Bush is backtracking on the decision to pursue a multilateral course, Blair flies to Camp David, where Bush takes him to meet with Cheney and the vice president grills Blair about the risks of working with the U.N.

In the end, Bush sides with Blair and decides to go through the U.N., but he exacts a high price. "By the time Bush committed to the U.N. route," says Matthew D'Ancona of the Sunday Telegraph, "he had obtained a private assurance from Blair that he would go to war with him, pretty much no matter what."


Sept. 12, 2002

Bush Confronts U.N. on Iraq


Iraqi Delegate to the U.N.

While there are sighs of relief across Europe when Bush finally goes to the U.N., in his speech, Bush delivers an ultimatum not only to Saddam, but to the U.N. itself.

"Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the U.N., a difficult and defining moment," Bush says. "Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the U.N. serve the purpose of its founding or will it be irrelevant?"

Bush says that he will go to the Security Council for a new resolution to disarm Saddam. But he avoids saying that he will abide by the will of the United Nations if it vetoes such a resolution.


October 2002

France Rejects U.S. Draft Resolution


According to reports, the U.S. begins to circulate a draft resolution to Security Council members that calls for weapons inspectors to reenter Iraq; it also demands that the U.N. authorize force if Saddam doesn't disarm immediately.

The draft is unacceptable to France. French President Chirac indicates that he supports a two-step approach -- first, the Security Council needs to pass a resolution on weapons inspections; then, the Council should reconvene to assess whether Saddam Hussein has cooperated and to determine what action should be taken.

After Powell gets assurances from French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin that France won't block a vote for war if the U.S. goes along with the two-stage approach, Bush finally agrees to a watered-down resolution that gives the French some of what they want.

The U.S. agrees to go back to the Security Council for another discussion and a possible resolution if Iraq doesn't comply with the requirements of the first resolution.


Nov. 8, 2002

Resolution 1441 Passes


Although the resolution unanimously passes, it papers over huge differences between the U.S. and France.

After the vote, John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., makes it clear that the Iraqi dictator's failure to comply with the inspections will justify the use of military force to disarm him. Negroponte's French counterpart, Jean-David Levitte, rejects the idea of using Resolution 1441 as an automatic "trigger."


December 2002

Inspectors Return to Iraq; Military Build-Up Begins


Saddam Hussein agrees to let the inspectors back in and says Iraq will fully comply with Resolution 1441. As the inspectors work, the U.S. begins deploying troops to the Middle East, sending 25,000 in late December and 62,000 more in early January.

Many in Europe see the military build-up as proof that the U.S. never intended to do anything but go to war. Across much of Western Europe, public opinion is running strongly against an American-led war to disarm Iraq. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's recent reelection is largely due to his tough anti-war platform.


January 2003

France and Germany Make a Stand Against U.S.


Dominique de Villepin.

At a Jan. 20 press conference that Powell doesn't know about, Dominique de Villepin goes on record saying France believes there is no reason for war: "Since we can disarm Iraq through peaceful means, we should not take the risk to endanger the life of innocent civilians or soldiers, to jeapordize the stability of the region, and further to widen the gap between our people and our cultures."

Powell feels betrayed. "I happened to see Colin Powell pretty soon after the meeting on Jan. 20," says Christopher Meyer, Britain's ambassador to the U.S. at the time. "I think what I would say to you is that their remarks were bordering on the unprintable."

Germany has just joined the Security Council as a new rotating member and it, too, voices opposition to war. German Foreign Minister Joshka Fischer declares that his country "will not be part of military action as the Federal Republic of Germany. And we want to avoid military action by a successful implementation of Resolution 1441."

With tempers fraying on both sides of the Atlantic, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld bluntly discounts the influence of France and Germany in the debate. "You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France," Rumsfeld says. "I don't. I think that's Old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east."


Jan. 31, 2003

Bush Agrees to Second U.N. Resolution


Fearing a political backlash, Blair returns to Washington to secure the president's commitment to weather the storm and continue on the U.N. route. Bush agrees to try for a second Security Council resolution on Iraq.

However, following his meeting with Blair, a clearly frustrated Bush states: "This thing needs to be resolved quickly. Should the United Nations decide to pass a second resolution, it would be welcomed. ... But 1441 gives us the authority to move without any second resolution."


Feb. 5, 2003

Powell Presents Evidence to U.N.


Colin Powell and U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw

Although Powell's report is extensive and detailed about what Iraq is hiding, the French and other Europeans are not swayed. They feel that the U.N. inspectors are dealing with the weapons question, and have deep doubts about Powell's claims of connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

"The French intelligence chief came out the next day and said, 'Nonsense. It just wasn't true,'" says Keith Richburg of The Washington Post. "That exhaustively-put-together report by Colin Powell laying out the proof was completely dismissed by the French."


Feb. 6, 2003

NATO Rejects U.S. Request for Military Aid to Turkey


The U.S. asks NATO for help in defending Turkey, an alliance member that would be vulnerable to attack from Iraq if war broke out. But it becomes clear that France, Germany, Belgium, and others will block the military aid -- the first time such a request has been turned down in the history of NATO. France argues that the U.S. request assumes there will be an attack on Iraq, even as U.N. inspectors are still working there.


March 6, 2003

Bush's Last Effort at U.N.


Blair asks a reluctant Washington to try one more time at the U.N. and Bush, at a rare primetime news conference on March 6, challenges the members of the Security Council to support a second resolution. "We'll call for a vote [on the second resolution]," says Bush. "It's time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam."

The U.S. strategy is a gamble: If it gets nine votes -- a majority -- and Russia and China abstain from voting, then France would have to face standing alone as the sole veto.


March 10, 2003

'Whatever Happens,' France Will Veto


French President Jacques Chirac

Chirac calls Bush's bluff. In a television interview, he states that France will veto a second U.N. resolution. "My position tonight in any of these circumstances is that France will vote 'no,' because it considers that there is no place for war to achieve our objective, namely the disarming of Iraq."

It was over. There will be no Security Council support for war.


March 19, 2003

War on Iraq


At 9:33 p.m. EST, the war to oust Saddam Hussein officially begins. The U.S. and Britain are now fighting the war virtually alone.



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posted april 3, 2003

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